There were rumours in political circles over the last week that Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin would not get the Awami League ticket to contest the upcoming Chattogram City Corporation election.
At a meeting of AL's Local Government Nomination Board on Saturday, AL President Sheikh Hasina spoke her mind: "Leave Nasir out of consideration."
The 18 AL aspirants from the port city were present at the meeting at the Gono Bhaban, insiders told The Daily Star.
Hearing it from Hasina, most of the aspirants lauded the decision and said no businessman should get the AL ticket, indicating that Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mahbubul Alam should also not be nominated.
When the mayoral hopefuls said Hasina was the one who should pick the nominee, she announced the name of Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, joint general secretary of Chattogram City AL.
The city AL is divided in two factions -- one led by Mayor Nasir and another by the family of late mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury.
Rezaul, however, has never aligned himself to either faction. Party insiders said it was his clean image that won over the AL chief.
Over the years, Mayor Nasir, general secretary of Chattogram City AL, kept his rivalry with the Mohiuddin family alive. He also alienated most of the senior AL leaders in Chattogram, including presidium member Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, insiders said.
AL members have also not forgotten that in October last year, Nasir forced Mohiuddin's wife Hasina Mohiuddin, president of Chattogram City Mahila AL, to leave the stage during a programme in the presence of AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader.
AL insiders said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was fond of Mohiuddin's family and she did not approve of the way Nasir treated Mohiuddin and his family members.
However, residents of the city and politicians were a little surprised by Rezaul's nomination as he was never under the spotlight when the general public, activists, and media analysts were talking about probable AL nominees.
According to Chattogram City AL leaders, Nasir also had a rivalry with Mosharraf Hossain over the ownership of Jatinsangha Park when Mosharraf was the minister for housing and public works.
Besides, Nasir could not make any significant changes in the city as a mayor, said an AL leader, adding that he could not even set up a new park and instead allowed shops and business establishments to spring up in parks and on footpaths.
"Surveys were conducted on Nasir's popularity by different agencies and all the reports went against him," the AL leader said yesterday.
Days after taking over as mayor, Nasir alleged that bureaucrats demanded 5 percent of the development funds. It angered the bureaucrats, and as a result, the city corporation "did not get enough funds" for development during the first two years of his five-year tenure, said another AL leader.
Farid Mahmud, joint convener of Chattogram City Juba League, told The Daily Star that the PM had given recognition to a dedicated and tested leader from the grassroots by nominating Rezaul, adding that the grassroots leaders and activists were glad.
Mohammed Nasim, member of AL Local Government Nomination Board, said Rezaul was nominated because the board wanted to give the "new leader" a chance.
"I think, in some cases, new faces should be given chances so that they can prove their potential," he said, "We also nominated new faces in other city corporations in the past."
Contacted, AL presidium member Engineer Mosharraf Hossain said Rezaul had a clean image.
Mayor Nasir told The Daily Star that he had accepted the PM's decision. "I am always loyal to her and will remain so forever."
He added that he and his followers would do everything to help the party nominee win.
When contacted, Rezaul said, "I am grateful to her [PM]. I do not have any rivalry or rift with anyone."
EC ANNOUNCES SCHEDULE
The Election Commission yesterday announced the schedule of the Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) election slated for March 29.
The last date for submission of nomination papers is February 27. The papers will be evaluated by EC officials on March 1, said EC Senior Secretary Alamgir.
The last date for withdrawal from candidacy is March 8. The contenders' election symbols will be announced the next day.
Appeals against the EC's evaluation have to be submitted from March 2-4. Decisions about the appeals will be taken from March 5-7.